Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Fabric of Forgiveness

—Photo by Keely S. Dorran, Sacramento

—Loch Henson, Diamond Springs

Thread by thread,
made up of varied materials
you do what you can to create
a strip to bandage your wounds.

Some of them call for a band-aid;
Some of them call for a tourniquet.
Some of them call for an amputation.

It was not your place to have a Kevlar heart.
It was not their place to trespass and
do harm, yet harm was done.

Then the real work begins.

You spin, and weave, and gather
and grieve for the part of yourself
that you recognize as injured after triage.

You slowly build the tool you need
with the skills you have and
the patience you are struggling to claim
as your own.

Eventually what you weave is the fabric
of forgiveness.  This is not for them.
This is for you.

It may not look glamorous at first glance,
and it might not match your entire wardrobe,
but it will save you when you need it to.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Morning Filled With Old Clocks

At Locke Memorial Park
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


door.  The cat strolled through the door on its hind legs.
Held tightly in its paws was a small revolver, hammer
pulled back, safety off.

“Hello sucker,” said the cat.  “I’m here to take you out
of this life.  The angel of death, as it were, and this gun
will do it.  Will do it quick, will do it clean.”

I was surprised.  How could I tell my friends about this one?
Certainly a hallucination of some kind.  A cat with a gun.
“But why and who? and why a cat?”

“Why not a cat,” he said, leaning back against the wall.
“Life is like that.  You never know what’s going to happen
next.  One minute just sitting there typing and then WHAM!
in I stroll and the whole book changes.  Simple stuff, man.
So simple you forget it.”

“Who sent you?"

“Uh uh, no reasons.  You know better than that.  Things
just happen.  No reasons.  You think up the reasons later.
It makes the time go together better, that’s all.”

“Would you like a bowl of milk, cat?”  I asked.

“Sure,” he said.  “Sure, I’d like a
bowl of milk.”

He walked on all fours over to the milk and began drinking.
I quickly picked up the gun and put it high on a shelf.

“Were you really going to kill me?"  I asked the cat.

The cat lapped its milk.  The late afternoon sun did a dance
across its long fur.  He looked up at me and squinted, made
a cat noise.

Some days, I said to myself, some days it gets so real.
Cats with guns and poems with people inside of them.
What next, I said, and the room was very, very quiet.

 Clouds Over Locke

“It is difficult to draw away from the face of God—
it is like a warm fire, it is like dear sleep, it is like 
a great anthem; yet there is a stillness all 
about it, a stillness full of lights.”

We watched them from our towers
and they sparkled like the first morning.
Their hands held perfumes of deepest
rose and their eyes were full of
the sound of birds in jasmine.
Extending their cool hands to ourselves,
they bade us come in.  "Come in."

Crossing the room, he saw three flowers
dangling from a broken vase.  Someone
had left them for him to see, he was
sure.  It was snowing outside and he
looked past the flowers, the disordered room
and there were small animals playing in the snow.
They tore at each other with tiny teeth and
became red on the snow.  Whimpering.

The game was too old.  He reloaded his gun
and sat down.  Eventually they would come and he
would be ready for them.  It had been many years.

The sun set.

“You are a maiden who is sleeping.  The
voices walked 'round him and then right wore its
long coat and walked quietly on the hills.
“You are like a wanderer from Kyfouth and your
shoes show the desert in a perfection of sand.”

He moved.

The guns came up and spilt their terrible seed
upon him.  He moved and the dream went deeper.
There were paths filed with things he did not know,
like Christmas.  He became himself and the snow
showed a small group of men with heads like dogs,
running in tight file across a field.  Even then
he didn’t stir or wipe the redness from his eyes.
A fine lady with night wound in her hair
bent close to him and said words into his ear.

“What is that way,” he said, half-rising.

“The changing of the seasons,” someone answered.
“I am moving then?”

Outside, the small animals had slowly moved away,
crying softly and licking their soft bodies.

 Dog Visiting Locke


There used to be a house right here
Where I am standing.  Now there is just
Your body and my hands are surgeons.
I lift your organs and remove the part that breaks
Whenever you see me standing in the rain.

What language did we speak then?
What were those words you said?
I cannot recall them now.  It seems
They were put-together places
Smelling of bleak hotel rooms,
Small tears in the imagination,
Impossible to put together once
The runs began to race toward
Your thighs, spreading the fabric
Greater and greater distances,
Until I can once more see the moon
High above whatever city we were in.

The lions still move at the bottom of the stairs,
Snakes winding about the columns.
They know we are here.  They don’t have
To look for us.  They know the picture
Is theirs and they will ask us, “What do you
Want more than anything?”

To fall asleep, not knowing my name.
Not knowing your name.  Not having
Any name at all and to be touching
Your body with all that I am, hearing the first
Word.  It is coming from your mouth.

 Front Door, Locke


This could stop any second.
This is hanging in the air.
It has all of my breath in it.

As I recall, I was holding you
In my arms.  The afternoon
Sun slid across your stomach,
Lighting up the perfect fine hairs,
Glowing under my fingers.

I couldn’t remember anything.  There
Were, of course, all the stars above.
They had homes on your lips then.
I visited them as often as possible.

Now, when I sit, I hear the tingsha
vibrate against eternity, I feel
Your body against mine and believe
The sound of the divine winds
Are moving through me and that we
Are talking to each other intensely.

There comes a shot to the head.
I hear the stillness in the echoes.
I feel your fingers upon a harp
I once knew as my own flesh.

 Electric Calla Lily


I can drive cars into my imagination.
They have no brakes.  They have
Lots of lights.

A separate rain.  The burns across
The palms of my hands.  I read
With my eyes closed.  The night
Air fills with huge sparks.
I choose to live like this.

I can hear stars chanting.
“Shut up.  People will think
You’ve caused something.”
A morning filled with old clocks.

An algebra of regrets filled with eagles.
All of this dust was once armies.
All of poetry, a concordance of possibilities.
Shadows of invisible monuments.
Decisions made by flowing water.

Fish begging for a greater understanding
Of fireflies and the history of night.
The radiant trappings draped upon the heart.
What echo says to each precious moment.

You’ll have a better idea of this
When everything is perfect.
Help me lift these words in tribute
To eternity.  Eternity will remember you
For this.  It will kiss you on the lips.

The tides mimic our emotions.
Long ago I walked with lions.
Just get into the boat quickly.
We will not want to miss the sunrise.


Today's LittleNip:

Writing a prose poem is a bit like trying to catch a fly in a dark room.  The fly probably isn’t even there, the fly is inside your head; still you keep tripping over and bumping into things while in hot pursuit.  The prose poem is a burst of language following a collision with a large piece of furniture.

—Charles Simic, from his essay, "The Poetry of Village Idiots" in his book of essays, The Life of Images


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner and to Beth Chapel for their fine contributions to our morning!

—Watercolor by Beth Chapi

Friday, May 29, 2015

All the Words for Wonder

—Poems and Photos by Katy Brown, Davis


Remember the world of water?
Emerald ponds,
aqua seas,
turquoise bays,
opal falls—

remember the meadows,
alive with garter snakes
and salamanders—

and the rain?
    gentle showers
    steely downpours
    virga that never reaches ground—

remember the world
alive with the sounds of
water in motion —

we will tell our grandchildren
about this world
on desert nights
under an arid moon.

(after Arnaldo Roche’s painting by the same name)

Thin women think they have power:
they use their bodies to manipulate.
They expose their skinny legs,
lift weights with their skinny arms,
show off their skinny butts.

I am a woman of a certain age
and well past worrying about
what others think or notice.

I feel the dark earth
between my stubby toes;
the wind cools my body;
I hear the green rising in new corn.

I don’t want to float, cloud-light—
I desire to become a storm:
heavy with fat raindrops;
shocking as lightning;
and round with thunder.

Berkeley Poets’ Dinner First Place
(Poet's Choice), 2006


I count the moments, curling away
like wood shavings or peeled apple skins:
the days turning-in on themselves.

Mondays twist into February,
Noontime swelters into August.
And before I collect the memories,

Wednesday has melted into September
and my work is still undone—
notebooks and poems, still unfinished.

Somewhere on the far side of the globe
the sun is setting.  Even now, that line of dusk
races toward me across the Atlantic.

I take up my pen and try to capture
dawn as it whispers
in shades of violet just beyond the Sierra.

But the moment slips by.
I try to describe seven white cranes
rising from the bypass like incense or prayers.

The day advances on me,
surely as I hear October breathing—
all the dead waiting for me at midnight.


The moon burns a cold hole
in the sky tonight,
igniting the shredding clouds

in shades of rust and sulfur.
Sleep won’t come
under such a sky as this,

thick with portent:
somewhere a night bird cries.
The ghostly owl sways

in the top of the slender cypress.
A distant train whistle calls. Twice.
No, sleep won’t come,

no matter how many times
you count sheep, or blessings,
or all the words for wonder.

Today's LittleNip:


Each of us follows a path,
treacherous as fractured ice,
into unseen futures—
away from untraveled pasts.

Make no mistake, nothing is new.
This ground has been trod before;
this air, stirred in the lungs
of those long dead.

In spite of the long cold wind,
a howling across the steppe,
we are not alone in this journey.
Look for footprints.  Listen for prayer.

(first pub. in
Brevities, April 2015)

—Medusa, with thanks to Katy Brown for today's wonderful poems and pix, and a note that Katy and Allegra Silberstein will be reading at Sacramento Poetry Center this coming Monday night, 7:30pm. Be there!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How Light the Day

Purple Kite
—Anonymous Photo
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA 


How light the day
at the county fun fair
near the whale watchers
by spiny lobster tables
a Portuguese fisherman
proudly holds up his cache
here in sprightly Gloucester
along the Atlantic ocean
we are aware of purple kites
and lemony hot air balloons
rising suddenly by sky writing
on fitful May afternoons,
a former poetry student
in my class stretches
his gawky opaque pose
combs out his long ringlets of hair
and on the common green
plays a love song melody
on his Basque guitar
giving up his tied bloodhound
other dogs bounding
after him from the bazaar
whose senior essay on Joyce
was our valedictory choice,
motions to me to move
in the strongest light
and suddenly snaps my picture
near the near Eastern rug exhibit
and Ron disappears
on the merry-go-round
with his sunburnt
girlfriend, Leah Belle
found selling at the flea market
feldspar star crystals
and a porphyry of shells,
whom Ron saved
as a lifeguard last summer
from being drowned,
we hear Elvis look alike voices
in a rolling contest by the Bay
amid the freshest noisy air,
they are putting out trays
by the blueberry pie bake in
with Boston baked beans
and a salmon chowder
near the lemony painted gazebo
facing the bluest Bay,
we are watching a Persian cat
trying to ride a mare,
I'm looking back as a guest
at the book sale
of my poem collections
those by Whitman
and Thomas Hardy,
others romance to a love beat
carousing away
having a loud beach party
waiting in a carburetor's
parking lot
by going Dutch
on a six-mile run,
some gossiping about politics
without any smoking guns,
now near a little league game
amid a boys' boisterous crowd
reaching out to invite us
to dance the macarena
and for others a Swedish polka
on blankets of white sand
glancing over the island festival
birds sing in their own rock band
by the dunes on the harbor
as sister wanders away,
nothing could be wrong
even taking our chance at play
in the spring resonance
promised for today.



When the river
offers us a path
flooding by the walls
birds in a sky rain
sinks our letters
of Dear John or Jane
as wild roses
hide by conifer trees
cannot dispose of love
in easy words
from the winding breeze.

 —Anonymous Photo


Watching the stars
on their sky journey
who needs a telescope
or a green catalogue
from Forbes-Burney,
we may be alone
like a leaping leopard
behind steel bars
we have a keen bard
to keep us on an altar
from being lonely.



After you clean
all night
drowsy yet
regularly in a cold
encapsulated study
you paint
tilting my portrait
left in my studio
by the blind windows
near the music stands
on the grand piano,
only your shadow remains.



Who was the blessed bride
seen all in snow white
engaged for a small part
in a hidden cameo film
made in beautiful Afrique
who spoke French
dressed up in the language
of a once colonial signature suit
in the rainy scene on the bench
drenched from head to boot
in a now forbidden apartheid age
taking her vows and bows
in a full black-and-white video
her pages read to us
as she rehearsed in review
on a past ceremonial stage
where few actors like her could go.

 Green Painting
—Painting by Franz Kline

Birthday May 23 (1910-1962)

Knowing that your abstracts
blur all our open eyelids
of subterranean forms and colors
with a nimbus of language
penetrating abrupt surfaces
of our subconscious
overtaking our unshaven lives
from your easy-going hands
as we stare at a standstill
not turning one glance away
captured here in the museum
in your secrets, Franz Kline
leaning gently down
at your aromatic canvas
roundly contracting our eyes
into shapes and brushing
by the matted body entangled
following your underground art
on webs of gray shadings
of pure Asian calligraphy
to open our nexus of joy
from reflected grids
of your amazing experience
at our pupil's moist eyes
give us unforgettable stares
into alembic creative moments
from your felled strokes of time.

 Sara Holding a Cat
—Painting by Mary Cassatt

May 25 (1910-1962)

Because we search for beauty
in our terrestrial quest
alone by her "Sara Holding a Cat"
a light coiled from impressionism
made us conscious of light
wandering in the museum rooms
we engage in your oiled memory
away from arbitrary
or contrary reflective thoughts
remembering your friendship
with Degas in Paris
how we celebrate you today
watching your nascent exquisite
emerging fine art details
in unveiled mirrors of color
on the canvas of Mary Cassatt.

 Madonna of the Rocks, 1912
—Painted Plaster by Alekandr Archipenko

May 30 (1887-1964)

In layers of stone
from terra cotta
your space in our time
the bent arm
of a patient genius
for a sculptured language
all its own
gave us a radiance
as we circle the walls
of your years of semblances
from art's patterns
and abstract alliances
in clarity and reality
we patrons leaning on chairs
as cool connoisseurs
celebrate your imagination
in all its mirrors.


May 31 (1819-1892)

it was at seven
when I was given a copy
of your "Leaves of Grass"
under beech trees
here by the nightingales
your open words disclosed
a language of wonder
reaches out
as words to stun us,
we are your brothers
and sisters
as twin birds on
thickets of roses
hear tiny May cicadas
whispering their love
disclose to each other
your birthday's good wishes
as expression transfers
with a pair of poetry tickets
gathering all verse lovers
in every country on earth
as a star poet of the universe
to celebrate your birthday,
and all the salt of the earth
dreamers, refugees,
workers on the fields
dancers of swan lake,
jazz musicians playing
a round has your back,
whether by the sounds
of fiddles, orchestra or sax
or at the dunes
where you relax
down by the cranberry bogs
near the steamboats on the sea
as far as St. Louis, Missouri
those building bridges
on the brightest isle or eddy
or writing dialogues
for T.V. or radio
even in Japan
in Hiroshima or Nagasaki
there is a Whitman party
for our hero.


Today's LittleNip(s):


Never one question
or proven answer
only the fatal disclosure
you were the one who painted
the parting landscape of ambrosia
shaped and sought
your sculpture of a dancer
in intelligent thoughts
at art's accidental exposure.

         *  *  *  *  *


You cannot destroy him
the powers that be

Sending him into war
there is still no peace

The poet lives on
though he longs for bread

though the world may laugh
or write too early his epitaph

The poet keeps writing
for reality, for justice, or for God

outliving the dead
though the powers that be.


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today's fine poetry!

Blue Dancer, 1913
—Bronze by Alekandr Archipenko


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tenderness Steeped in Derangement

—Photo of Tom Goff, courtesy of Gerald Thomas

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Who that’s read the poems of Herr Rilke
hasn’t seen the oddball small emoticons
everywhere in them? Oh, not quite emojis,
yet signals pungent long before our logon-
logoff world. You know what I mean. :— und —:
punctuations for registering awe and shock
at cosmic arches, night and distance, augenblick
und earthquake-intake of breath, all das gesundheit
sweet sneeze-felicitation, agony, wonder
expressed in —. The heartfelt pause the panther
senses, the stopped-dead pulse of cage-perception,
the rose’s tremor (: ), smiling lacrymose thunder
till it exits, Mach 1 quivering out the anther,—
silencing our antennae’s weak reception.

Now the pulsation, bright blink & solemn nose —:
desists mid-message—, knows what each poet knows,
or any human: take Rilke himself (: und das,
und das ist wirklich nichts:—full stop…at last… :)?

—Photo by Keely Dorran, Sacramento 

—Tom Goff

The bird is blurred that was so crisply dead.
It lies still where the one-bird bird strike occurred,
from window glass bounced as if from so much lead,
now a faded pressed bloom in the book of the Word,
flat placeholder in between onionskin air and air.
Ruined sun and rain, unreachable for disposal
high on its ledge, it answered an urge to lair,
nest, forage, pierce barricades in the unseen wind-crystal.
Oh, two semesters—starling? No, a swallow—
it’s lain, serenading no one but me, I believe,
to tell me a huge lone universe glistens in corpses,
in all the cerebral asphyxias, failures to thrive.
Bird sings how small histories blister—in schools, in coppices—
then warbles of disconnect, students I’ve failed to follow.

—Artwork and Photo by Keely Dorran 

—Tom Goff
Palmyra, mine for a beautiful brief era:
you grew tall pillars white and soft as legs,
grew adamant acanthus-work that pegs
your soft petal-spikes and leaf-flutes to bone-marrow

marble, grafting capitals to slim columns,
for yours is Corinthian hair done up to pillow
that sweet and oppressive blue above, whose billows
add weight to the lovely head they rest or fall on.

Your bearing more admirable since the lumbers
and burdens you uphold can’t dislodge your sense
for proportion: that abacus in you knows to flense
ideals from solids. Crowned and adorned by numbers,

you’re grace in speechless fractions displacing tons.
You live in one pair of bare legs: she leaps, she runs.


When you, my Palmyra, unlimber to Syrian sky
columnar fragments like so many cannons
aimed at the gods, and when I see the tannins
and acids darken your marmoreal skin,

I see still your ideality and blessing
transcendent—thanks to the man-god carving you
in beveled concaves of groove-line and volutes
of ramhorn-scrollwork—over treachery

and slaughter incarnate, empire. You are all girl,
and so like a girl most vulnerable to brutality,
disfigurement. Iconoclastic cruelty
too soon must fall on those lacy tendrils of curl

at play alongside your rose-white ear, that auricle
pregnant with ions—my voiceless almost-oracle.


In a long novel I read—among your columns,
a feral dog snaps, defending suckling whelps
unseen by our heroine. This wild she-dog helps
our lady somehow fathom her years of solemn
denial, trust instinct, mend a long estrangement.
Palmyra, your magic: tenderness steeped in derangement.

—Photo by Keely Dorran 

—Tom Goff

Beauty so oddly adores the primal woman,
skin smooth from birth, caressable enough
—she punctures all this water-fine first human
translucence with designs, wounds, roughneck-tough
or laced like tracework gauze on sleepwalk canvas.
I blanched at first to see such weird caprices
now aquatint my Dorothy’s pure Kansas
between soft sandals & dark brown capris, Oz
over pale calves and backs of ankles with roses.
Such sweet stigmata, all non-native growth,
green stemwinders a needle-sting imposes.
Port-wine-stain petals corrupt soft kaolin earth.
Yet what have you lost? Your pearls-in-cirrus clear skin?
‪ ‬
‪I see you transfigured. Stained glass, desire & sin.‬


Today's LittleNip:

From stoplights to skyscrapers, turn anywhere in civilization and you will see imagination at work. It's in our inventions, advances and remedies and how a single parent masterminds each day. Imagination is boundless, surrounds us and resides in us all.

—Geoffrey S. Fletcher


—Medusa, with thanks to Tom Goff and Keely Dorran for today's fine gourmet work!

Ceremonial Drum
—Photo by Keely Dorran

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

That Carnival of Days and Nights

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


“As we lean over the deep well, we whisper…”
                                                  —Marie Ponsot

We would be sisters, I name you thus, living
at either ends of the vast country, you more
sophisticated perhaps (though I am depth and
surface, too). We are the same age. I claim
you. We come together in evening shadows
when talk is easy. You do not know you are
here—here with me in lines of talk and drifts
of imagining.

We come to a wishing well. I create this for
the poem. It is deep and full of terrible wishes.
If we choose one, it will come true. Who is
wise enough for this? Not you. Not me.

We watch the dark glitter. Something huge there,
full of time and timelessness. Oh, distant sister,
if we finish this discussion, one of us will die.
I must not tell you this. I suggest a walk back to
the path that leads in both directions. Here we
part and are gone from even this non-memory.


Why weeping. Why not. Have you not felt the sway
of great emotion;  have you not felt time slip through

before you were ready; have you not favored regret
over favor? Oh, how you like the contradiction

of the mirror—that glass of lies. Break it, and it
it multiplies. See, I say it twice—to catch up; to run

past myself; to run right through the mirror to the other
side of life—that parallel, where I am in the arms

of my mother. Time is on a wheel, rolling backward.
I go ‘round and ‘round myself, always ending up

back to the moment, which is smooth—oiled with
momentum.  Ferris Wheel.



The clown arrives with his black mask
and signature; he will amuse
with his pointed humor,
wait for the laughter—
who knows him?
who asked him here?
the audience
propped in chairs—
his puppets—
he dances,
he juggles,
he rolls on the floor
to make the spotlight follow him,
he offers the flourish of his autograph
to the first one who finds him funny.
The audience cannot laugh or applaud.


Tonight I read fortunes in the dark,
tell truths and non-truths—
anything to save you.

Your hand ignites in my hand, your palm
a map that I travel with my eyes—
say words over.

Someone draws a curtain between us;
now we must lose each other—
try to remember.



Come with me.  Read my hand.  It holds nothing now.
It is not a book for you to know.  But please yourself.

Say what you see.  I will listen.  Maybe it is true.
I open my palm.  You trace your finger, frown and hum.

What to you see there?  I won’t ask. You won’t say.
Thus do we keep ourselves from one another.


you at the edge of everything
I in the center
a shining wheel that turns
on my life
and your eye
how I spin
to dizziness and meter

and from the blur
you throw knives at me and
laugh from the praise of your talent
an audience cheers
you raise your arms
to the applause
all your fingers are knives


(after Paul Klee’s “Death and Fire”)
Now in the fun-
house of the dream,
white ghost of
symbolic death…

shadow-texture of
scream . . . silent grasp
of light . . . side-
show of the mind . . .

and at the receding edge
of sleep, sleep-
child, hands raised
against the looming buga-

boos—which are real,
which are always there . . .
and always will be,
in the dream.


This is how to relieve pain:
Pinch yourself.


For tears, cry and buy
a pretty little jar to keep them in.


If you love,
enjoy it or regret it.


If you tell fortunes,
beware of other fortune-tellers.


Today's LittleNip:


my cup,
no fortune
to tell—unless
the tea bag should burst.


—Medusa, thanking Joyce Odam for today's delectable delights, and noting that our new Seed of the Week is Remedies. Send your poems, photos and artwork on this (or any other subject) to No deadline on SOWs.

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Every Whisper

Five Bluebirds in the Nest
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

No longer small—five baby blue-

birds fill the nest-box. Air full of hissing,

bluebird mother dive-bombing

as I open the box to find her five nestlings

inert but waiting to fly; hunkered down

as I gaze inside. Bluebirds

don’t trust me with their blue bird-sky.

This box full of longing, full

circle of feathered wings quiet as clock

ticking toward fledge-time.

I shut the lid so as not to break

the circle. Tomorrow

every baby will be gone.

The sky’s full of promise: tomorrow

bluer with birdwings, birdsong.


—Taylor Graham

Nest Box #1: 5 titmice nestlings; #2: 2 bluebirds
on fenceposts nearby; hwy shoulder: 1 roadkill
turkey—supplier of feather-down for a swallow
nest; #3 jumble-bed of grass with yellow thread
(who knows where that came from), and skunk-
fur trim—another titmouse nest. You know
every species, I look to you for guidance.
I take field-notes, try to be scientific. Repaid
in birdsong. 1 meadowlark.

Above the confluence of creeks, revels of cliff
swallows under the bridge—silver kites too
many to count, swoop-sailing after insects
the livelong day. And look, 1 gray fox stares
at us, moves off as if to lure us away, trots across
speeding two-lane, cars & trucks eating the road,
spitting out chipseal. Fox left behind her 3 sable
kits tumbling, skittering, disappearing into dry
culvert that is their safe den. Sky full of wings.


—Taylor Graham

Load up the car. Drive away

to where open hands are filled with rain

and our wishes stilled in the cool vastness

of gray.

Where are the lambs and their ewes,

the pasturelands greening grass? No clouds,

the skies have the blues. Nothing grows.

All things must pass.

Did you catch that flicker-

arc? A half-signal,

lightning-beam without thunder—

a ghost gleam.

Might a storm quicken the dark?


—Taylor Graham

Bree left her scarf here, neat lavender bow

tied around a gate-post: entrance

to a story. “Check Bree! Track Bree!” Off we go

as if we could unravel teenage syntax.

Edge of lawn: cowboys recite roundup verse

in August. A corridor of slatted trellis

woven with vines: fashion sense inherent

to 10th grade—she matched her scarf to wisteria

in bloom. A trailing blossom vibrates

with scent on a breeze; Bree’s passage

worthy of a tale, a trail. Fence sweetening

with berries; is this where they make

that kosher blackberry wine to sell at the Fair?

Fascination of the purple gate, the fair

lane—but she didn’t turn that way. Instead,

livestock pavilion: corridor edged

with lamb pens, floored with dirt, Loki had her

first lessons here as a pup. Is that Bree’s

slim footprint, fresh as morning, headed out?

Pick up speed getting closer to this chapter’s

end. We’ve got all summer till the Fair. 

 Something Ridiculous Jugglers
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
Theo wasn’t my grandfather.
But for the rest of the Crabtrees
It didn’t matter: close- 
Enough cousin.
So we were all surprised
That Sunday dinner
After fried chicken, taters
And shots (Theo liked Kentucky
Bourbon) when he told us
He’d sold the south acres
To the county fair.  Had to,
He said, because wife Hattie
(She stood, blushing by the
Kitchen door) wasn’t feelin’
So good, and there might
Be doctors’ bills (Hattie outlived
Most every Crabtree in the room,
Though that was another
Matter).  Was okay with us,
The Crabtree boys and myself:
Less corn detassling, less bean
Walking in the summer heat.
We became, such as it was,
Fair security—orange cone
Flashlights to guide parking,
Odd and young and flexible muscle
If there was trouble at closing.
And if there was a bear that
Caught a Crabtree’s attention
Just before the blowoff—
Three balls at the milk bottles,
And “We have a winner!”
Most all of the Crabtree boys
Eventually went into
Law enforcement.
And me, I wrote this.

 Chinese Acrobats of Hebei
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

After war
we invent silence
even memory,
inside the quiet rooms
of our nerves
in the recall of him or her
will find us offering a prayer
when the sunlight appears
on Memorial Day
through windows of birds
who flutter up over our windows
covering May's cool heavenly air
hands outstretch to poppies
is reflected in our mirrors
along the surf's breeze
knowing we exist as words
become our lives
in every whisper
and tiny gesture
we choose to pick flowers
as a poet's shadow
turns in the high tide
drowning a remembrance
as rainbows in the waters
rise by the sea's headstones
choosing to revere
the silver thoughts
from our angel's occupation.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

My father was a good man
Raised three sons
Married over half a century
To our mom, till he died

But he never spoke
Of a certain part of
His past, a part that hurt him
Camera film overexposed on war

World War II
Seabees, semaphore
Don’t remind me

He showed disfavor for any product
“Imported from France”
As if it was lava from a volcano
That would destroy all it touched

He took us to Navy ports
Gave us ship tours
We had mess down below
Wore sailor hats

He became a ham radio operator
Form over substance
A one-key computer
22 words a minute

The garage was his ham shack
Filled with paraphernalia
License plates from decades past
Bearing his call letters

He has been silent key now for 23 years
The war stories he never told
Are still somewhere lost at sea
Don’t remind me


Today's LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Under a clouded sky no birds sang ceremonies
of weather, though it was morning of the eve
of speaking in tongues. No wind riffled
drying grasses for the time of harvesting
first fruits. Drum-beat of heart against bone.
A sigh as if a breath were passing, gone
on unfamiliar wings; a break in clouds let
loose the eye of day, and a childless
mother howled for the angel rising away.


—Medusa, with hearty thanks to today's cooks in the Kitchen!

Musicians Candace Renee Perkins (left), 
Jack Niedermann (background), Kit Chell (right) 
and Eve King Lehman (not pictured) 
Hard Knock Skin: a Jazz Poetry Epic at Sac. Poetry Center
Friday, May 22
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Joy of the Dance

Sinaga Tala Filipino Dancers
Sacramento Banana Festival
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

In front of me in the crowd at the Fish radio station music fest at Cal Expo
   a boy about ten years old raised his hands and started shaking along to the music of Lisa Daggs
   Suddenly his mother hit him to tell him to stop it
   I wanted to get back on that mother even though I don’t have kids
   and because the boy did nothing wrong
   I told my friends with me that I think that mother is insane
   She probably thought "Oh no, can’t have my son wave his hands around like a 'Pentecostal' now!”
   when I was glad to see a boy excited about the worship music in the first place
   It will probably be this mom’s fault too if this boy decides one day to reject Christianity
   He might reject the faith because of people like his mom who think they can’t celebrate with joy in worship

—Michelle Kunert




Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Loan from the Morning

Palm Tree Shadows, Sacramento
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


In the lands roughly
to the north, the men
with silver kites
live with their angry women.

They lay upon the soft
skin of the beaches
and whisper names of
gods long dead to one
and another.

No one comes near these places.
They look filled with evil.
Even birds do not speak of it
to their children or of the
ceremonies of blood and dreaming.

We came to these shoes
as strangers, challenging
the bearded natives with
kitchen knives and automobiles
that ate the road as they went.

No one believes, here in the sixth
generation removed, that those
who rode their horses were alive
and cut themselves on sagebrush,
spoke with such light in their
mouths that steams gave up their
cities and once, ten thousand cattle.

 On Stuart's Porch


At some point he had reached the limit.
He still had his sword.
There was something ordinary about his dreams.
It seemed as if the seasons changed every day.
He dreamed all of the primary colors.
His faith got a loan from the morning.
He promised to repay it in bird songs.
Insomnia began to have a particular diameter.
Twice he saw the original Adam.
He was driving a car.
His body became rhetorical.
He could see dynasties in the faces of strangers.
Suddenly he knew the names of every dog he saw.
He realized how the pyramids were built.

A terrible fear that being would never cease
Overwhelmed him.
He realized there was a mistake in
The making of every afternoon.
He could see the wolves inside of every building.
Nostalgia had a boat in the harbor
But it had serious holes in its hull.
There were flags flying over every city
That were the color of skin.
He saw great tapestries celebrating wars
That had yet to happen.
Viking ships could be seen on all the horizons.
There were many clouds, but none of them
Were recognizable in any way.

 Evening in Locke


I was selling fireworks to the stars.
They have no home.  They were happy
To see me.  They asked about piano music.
They said it had been so long since they
Heard any of it and that last night the moon
Was so silvery and golden that they remembered
How beautiful it could be.  I noticed that the stars
All wore rings on their fingers.  They told me
It was because they were married to so many memories
And carried them in their flaming hearts.

They told me that the Night had problems
Of its own but never grumbled.  That wasn’t
Its job.  They laughed when I said it kept
Things hidden.  “Just like crows,” they said.

Most of the stars live in trailers.
It makes it easy to go from place to place.
I’ve seen them in lover’s eyes and whirling
Around the head of cartoon characters
And tugging onto the fishing lines of
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.  Poetry
Is loaded with them.  They love the attention.

 —Drawing by Flor Barillas


The caves moved
their mouths and
he imagined stories
they had to tell him.

Once the elder ones had moved
their leathery forms in and out
of dark veins and pumped themselves
through arteries as though their body
was our body.  They drank the cool
evening looking out from fingers and
watched the seasons warp into each other’s
long arms from behind eyes that we call our
own.  Carefully, like climbing mountains, he
seated himself in a soft chair and tried reading
a book.  The elder ones read for him, words
blurring, and the dark chambers of his body
revolted and spilled down his cheeks as tears.

Oh caves where loving
is an activity of children,
and blind men rove the streets
buying and selling.  And quietly, so quietly
he felt he had never heard it, the
long caverns whispered in the wind
and from their throats; from his throat,
there rose a laughter quite unlike himself,
quite like himself.



And still he smiled.
The clouds hung
themselves, becoming
red then violet,
the blood drifting
through them stretching
the sky inside them.

And still he smiled.
The fish swam into
the hollows
of his head and waited
unblinking, the water
rushing past above them.

And still he smiled.
A huge bear grew in his mind
and began tearing at the brain,
his eyes clouding over, skull
bursting, the dar fish
caught in the heavy hand of the bear.

 —3D Drawing by Taylor Wheaton


He said his name to himself
and took a small stick up
from the ground, carefully
touching every part of his
body with it.  His body felt
like something he had once
had a dream about.  The eyes
of coffin gods turned in their
small radius and leaned their
pillars closer to his mouth.

It will come, darlings.  It will
sound like talking to you.  It will
wear its hair in perfect braids
and have a whisper like a gun.
    "You will reach out and touch
    everything you ever owned   
    and it will be so much straw
    in your rotten mind."

Angel of the good in man, send
your packages of blood and dying
home.  Send us something
we can learn from.  War is such
an old toy, such a stupid trick
to pull on the gods that we are.

“You dumb schmuck.  Nobody in
their right mind would run off
at the mouth like that and not
expect a boot heel to match
a spot in their face.  What’s
the matter baby, is this train
of thought too much like crying?
Is the sound of people in the
streets too much like being

You are all angels, so don’t
don’t get hung up.  Start reaching for
it, partner.


Today's LittleNip:

a man here forgot
his lunch bucket
and it had to ride
the bus home alone
with an empty thermos
bottle in its one arm.

Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for this edifying Saturday morning breakfast of poems and pix from him and drawings from his students, Taylor Wheaton and Flor Barillas!
"From Another Observation Deck", "The Morning of the Angel", The Guy Who Went Home Before the Party Was Over", and "Crossing the River" were first published in Ampersand, 1969, edited by T.L. Kryss and R. Wolter, and "a man here forgot" was first published in The Wormwood Review


 Shadow on Stairs


Friday, May 22, 2015

Monarchs on Zephyrs

Photo by Brian Mahoney
—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO


We retired on the same day,
several years ago, my wife and I.
We sat around the house
drinking espresso coffee
and playing canasta till
my wife began to grouse.

We sold the house, bought an RV
and drove around the country
visiting, one by one, our five kids,
all married and in different states.
Were our grandkids doing well?
Were they getting the best?

After we had spent a few weeks
in their driveways in our RV,
the kids would politely suggest
maybe we should go back home.
Trouble is, we'd sold our house.
All we had was the RV.

Again my wife began to grouse
and so we sold the RV
and bought a zeppelin.
Now we float from state to state
over the driveways of our kids
and watch our grandkids

dashing home from school
wearing backpacks like the soldiers
landing on the beach in World War II.
The little darlings are geniuses,
I tell you, light years smarter than
our brilliant kids.

 Buckingham Palace Ducks
—Anonymous Photo


One day the faucets of the world
became irate when people
turned them off too tight and so

they chose to drip in anger,
a cacophony only they could hear.
When their demonstration ended

water flowed out the windows,
down the streets, flooding villages
and cities everywhere, a tsunami

sweeping everyone away.
No faucet could refuse to flood.
They have a union now, you see.

 Goose Family
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis


You're not normal.
You never were.
Even in kindergarten
the nun had to call
your parents about
the way you ruined
worksheet after worksheet
putting spots on zebras.
You hated stripes.

Now miles into the jungle
of your dotage, why grouse
about family coming to town
wanting to go on a picnic
before the night game.
They're only being normal.
They have no problem with ants
peppering the potato salad.
Why not tell them yesterday

the doctor said you have gout
and you plan to watch the game
on TV in your recliner,
foot propped. Maybe you'll
see them in the stands while
the Cardinals pound the Cubs,
something as certain as
the Second Coming, something
the kids from Chicago already know.

 —Anonymous Photo


We are to each other now
many decades later
what we were the day

we got married, a couple
at the kitchen table on
a summer night—she

a slice of watermelon,
corners touching the ceiling,
covering my face in juice

and I the corn she butters
before she devours it.
We eat as fast as we can.



His parents bought a special lock
to keep Nature Boy inside
but he's mechanically inclined
and loves to go outside.

—Photo by Katy Brown


It's all so simple now,
yet it took 30 years
to begin to understand.
It's as though someone
stole the primer I had
and gave me another
in my own language.
It's because you are
who you are
that I've begun
to become who I am.
That sounds too dramatic.
All you did, really, was scream
when you opened the bathroom door,
saw me wrapped in a towel,
standing at attention on a mat,
waiting in my thirtieth year
for the steam to clear
from the cabinet mirror,
waiting for someone
to shout, "At ease."

 —Anonymous Photo


He remembers loving her
lost in an orchard
peaches, pears, apricots

falling on his head
every day
always out of breath

stunned, dizzy
seeking shelter
he never found

then hating her
the night she sent him
whirling into space

dodging stars, planets
no sign of life anywhere
wondering whether

he would ever hear
a songbird welcome spring
or kiss her again.

 Black Swan
—Photo by Katy Brown


Remember, a blind man
can see things a sighted man can't.
So I'll tell you about her and then
you can tell me whether I'm right.

The first time a man meets her,
his eyes flicker and dart.
Desire, an appropriate reaction.
The first time a woman meets her,
her eyes pop out and coil on her forehead.
Envy, another appropriate reaction.

Today, who can blame either?
Today, who believes the canard
about the true, the good, the beautiful,
in theory or in a woman?
I never believed it

till the day that I met her.
And you won't believe it either
unless you do what I did—frisk her for flaws
that will allow you to live as you are,
as you were, as I was when I met her.
As for me, I'm no longer the same.
Perhaps you can help me.

The day that I met her, I was sitting
on pillows propped against the wall not far from Walmart.
I had my cane and my cup properly positioned.
I was ready for business.
And then I heard heels type on the pavement
the story of my life. I could hear in those heels
a woman who knew me although we had never met.

I had my baseball cap upside down on the sidewalk
between my outstretched legs.
It was full of my wares—pencils, spearmint gum
and Tootsie Pops, free, for the children.

When her heels stopped in front of my spot,
I sensed this lady had bent over my cap
and was checking my wares. Her hair
was a waterfall licking at my knees.
I was inebriated by her scent.
She selected two pencils and didn't ask price
so I knew that I had a real customer.
And then with a wave of her hand she let
paper money float through the air
into my cup. Believe me, a blind man
can see with his mind the butterfly
of paper money float to his cup.
Any denomination, large or small,
is a Monarch afloat on a zephyr.

Customers, you see, usually drop change.
A blind man can tell you what coins
a customer has dropped by the clink in his cup.
So when I heard her Monarch take to the air,
I forgot about my teeth and smiled up at her.
I usually don't smile on weekdays.
I used to smile on weekends till Mother

got hit by that Hummer. She was never the same.
On Saturdays she used to bring meals in tinfoil
labeled in braille to tuck in my freezer.
She wanted me to know which meals were where
but I was never able to read her braille
so I ate whatever the microwave served.

This new lady in heels, however,
has stolen my bereavement and taken me captive.
She has me smiling. I've been stoned on her musk
since the day that I met her and I'm getting more wobbly.
Everywhere I go her scent surrounds me.
I'm an addict now and I need my cane and my dog
just to get around the apartment.

So, please tell everyone now in the parade passing by
to listen to her as I did and in time they may hear,
as I can hear now, a year later, the cherubim sing
as she blooms with our child like a sunflower in summer
while I wonder, I try.

 Shy Egret in Rushes
—Photo by Katy Brown


From my stool in the diner I watch
the old woman with elm tree arms
command the big booth in back

and roar for a menu,
take a half hour to read it
before placing her order.

Watching her eat, I realize
life for her is a dollop of whip cream,
a twirling ballerina, on a diamond of Jello.

I raise my water glass
in a silent toast. Bravo, I whisper.
I wish her good cheer.


Today's LittleNip:


Two robins hopped
across the lawn

at dawn, one
behind the other.

The first one hopped
to get away.

The second hoped
to be a father.


Our thanks to today's contributors for brightening up our Friday, and a note that the new WTF! from Rattlesnake Press is now available. There are 20 free copies at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, or you can order them for $2 (to cover postage) by clicking WTF??? in the links at the top of this page (or from Contributors are, of course, entitled to have their copies mailed to them for free; write to me at if you haven't gotten yours yet.

And speaking of The Book Collector, there is a new open mic there now on the third Sundays of the month from 4-6pm, five minutes per reader. Head on down there this week and check it out!


—Photo by Katy Brown